Guide To Ravangla: A Stunning Gateway To South Sikkim

An off-beat destination in Sikkim, Ravangla has been attracting tourists for its mountains, monasteries and local tea
The small town of Ravangla in Sikkim is at the foot of Maenam Hill
The small town of Ravangla in Sikkim is at the foot of Maenam Hill

There are plenty of touristy places in Sikkim, but if you are looking for something off the beaten track, head out to the town of Ravangla. Located between Maenam and Tedong Hill in South Sikkim, at an elevation of 7,000 feet, Ravangla (also known as Ravongla) is dotted with picturesque villages and offers breathtaking views of the Himalayas.   

With the gigantic Khanchengdzonga a backdrop to this pretty town, Ravangla acts like a gateway to sites in South Sikkim. The name originates in the Bhutia language. "Ra" refers to wild sheep, "vong" to a rearing area, and 'la' to a pass. The town, nestled at the foot of Maenam Hill, has meandering undulating roads that lead to the little market, where swarms of jeeps and other transport vehicles can be found. There's plenty to do here, from monastery trails to tea gardens, visiting holy caves, and trekking. Here's our guide on things to do in Ravangla, Sikkim.

Treks And Trails

Trek to Maenam Wildlife Sanctuary, home to the Red Panda and the Himalayan black bear. Visit the Lepcha and Bhutia settlements of Tinkitam, Barfung, and Kewzing. Bring your binoculars because the region is a birdwatcher's heaven. You could be lucky enough to see the Satyr Tragopan (Tragopan Satyra), a rare species of pheasant found in the Eastern Himalayas. Or the Myzorni with a fiery tail.

All About Tea

Darjeeling is famous for its tea, but Sikkim also produces world-class organic tea at Temi Tea Garden. The state government established the 453-acre region in 1969. It also has cardamom plantations, cherry blossom trees, and breathtaking vistas of Khanchendzonga.

You can book a legacy stay at the Dak bungalow here and travel back in time to the Raj era. The glass verandah overlooking a garden is where you can relax with a cup of tea and some piping hot local snacks. You can also participate in tea tastings or watch the tea-making process. A stunning display of cherry blossom trees border the road to the plant. It's best to come here in winter when trees bloom and the snow-capped mountain ranges are visible.

Place Of Enlightenment

The Buddha Park has a 130-foot statue of Shakyamuni Buddha
The Buddha Park has a 130-foot statue of Shakyamuni Buddha

Buddha Park's huge complex with manicured gardens was built between 2006 and 2013 and boasts of a 130-foot statue of Shakyamuni Buddha dedicated by the Dalai Lama. The Buddha is shown here in the Dharmachakra mudra and represents the Wheel of Dharma, which was put in motion when the Buddha gave his first sermon after getting enlightenment at Sarnath. Hence, this park is also known as Tathagata Tsal, which means 'place of enlightenment'.

The statue is made in the repoussé style, one of the world's oldest metal-work traditions, with 60 tonnes of copper and four kgs of gold. The climb to the statue and the temple within can be exhausting for some. However, the elaborate murals and paintings within are well worth the effort. And you might spend a long time here exploring the walks and gardens and admiring the valley and mountain views.

The mood is enhanced by piped music and mantras and chants. The site also includes the centuries-old Rabong monastic complex. There are various little cafes throughout the complex where you can refuel with glasses of hot tea or coffee, plates of local alu-dom and roti, steaming momos, or Maggi and Wai Wai bowls.

They even have a lovely cafe where they serve delicious, locally brewed coffee and fresh doughnuts and sweets. The Buddha statue looks stunning when it is lit up after sunset. Wear appropriate footwear when visiting because there will be much walking and climbing. Inside, there are battery-powered cars to take you around. Request one at the ticket desk. However, you must pay for the ride.

The Monastery Trail

The Bon Monastery in Kewzing is one of India's only two Bon monasteries
The Bon Monastery in Kewzing is one of India's only two Bon monasteries Prof Ranga Sai/ Wikimedia Commons

There are numerous monasteries to visit in Ravangla. Ralang Monastery, near Buddha Park, is another important sacred site for Tibetan Buddhism. You can also walk to Cho Djo Lake, located within the complex. The Bon Monastery in Kewzing is one of India's only two Bon monasteries (in Himachal Pradesh).

Bon was Tibet's religion until the arrival of Buddhism. Their founder, Lord Tonpa Shenrab, is well-known in Bon culture. The Kewzing monastery is constructed in an Indo-Tibetan style and is embellished with paintings of deities and the Bon Buddha. It is around six kilometres from Ravangla along the Ravangla-Legship route.

Mangbrue Gompa, about two kilometres from Kewzing market, adheres to the Nyingmapa sect of Buddhism. Look for the ruins of bunkers and outposts from the nineteenth century, when an invading Bhutanese army exploited this region as a strategic point.

Pick Up Handmade Paper

You should stop by the modest handmade paper unit in Borong village. It is located around 17 kilometres from Ravangla town on the grounds of the Wildflower Retreat. This community cooperative produces handcrafted paper products. The paper produced is of various qualities and is exported to places such as Singapore and Bangkok in Thailand.

The Holy Cave 

One of Sikkim's four Sacred Caves is located near Sangmoo village in a calm, densely forested location east of Tashiding and about an hour's walk from Ravangla. The cave is known as 'Sangmo Ney' by the locals. This is considered the first cave in Sikkim to be blessed by Ugyen Guru Rinpoche. And this is where Guru Padmasambhava spent some time in meditation.

A lama of the Kagyupa sect erected a tiny monastery here around 1921. There are also three hermit houses, a rest house, and a trail that circles the complex. It can become mossy and slippery during (and quickly after) rainfall. So, be cautious as you make your way down the steps.

How To Reach: Ravangla is 68 kms from Gangtok. Driving down to Ravangla is the easiest way to reach Ravangla. Gangtok is 125 kms from Bagdogra Airport in West Bengal. New Jalpaiguri in West Bengal is the nearest railway station at 122 kms. Ravangla is well connected by road to all major towns and cities nearby.

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